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Friday, 28 June 2013

Lance Armstrong says it's impossible to win the Tour de France without drugs - he should know!

Isn't it just what the world needed - and in particular that of cycling?

On the day before the 100th Tour de France begins, Le Monde has published an interview with the race's biggest cheat (well the most publicised one at least) and liar (ditto).

The man in question of course is Lance Armstrong.

(screenshot from Disney film)

There's no need to go into the history of the man, his seven now-tainted wins of the Tour, the constant denials of drug taking and eventual admission or his deserved stripping of the titles he had "won".

That's all well-chronicled elsewhere.

But proving surely that Armstrong somehow believes none of the blame lies with him, here are some of the things Armstrong says in the interview, about the race.

"I didn’t invent doping," he told the paper.

"And it didn't end with me. I just participated in a system that already existed."

Yeah well.

He might be right.

But those are not exactly the words of contrition you would expect from a man who brought disgrace to the sport in the manner in which he constantly avoided telling the truth.

But there's more in his exercise of "justifying" his behaviour or lack of guilt.

“It’s impossible to win the Tour de France without doping because the Tour is an endurance test in which oxygen is a deciding factor," Armstrong said, adding that EPO was decisive for the race just as it was for long distance running.

Way to go! Now let's do a little deflection, shall we? And while we're about it, let's tarnish the reputation of other sportsmen and women based on your in depth knowledge of what it takes to "win".

Bravo M. Armstrong.

On former French rider Laurent Jalabert who had to step down as France 2 television and radio pundit for this year's Tour after doping allegations emerged earlier this week, Armstrong has some "comforting" words.

"Ah, Jaja. With all the respect I have for him, he's in the process of lying."

Congratulations M. Armstrong. You are an expert on the practice.

And finally on the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (huh?), Armstrong said, "I really appreciate Sarko as a man. When I say this, it's not a political statement. It's just a personal opinion. He has always been cool to me."

No, it's not really clear what relevance that particular comment has to anything, but it was included in the interview.

If you want to read excerpts (in French) or the whole interview, then click here and here (for subscribers) respectively.

But there again, maybe you've far better things to do...

The 100th edition of the Tour de France will get underway on Saturday on  Corsica - a fitting tribute as it'll be the first time in its history that it has visited the French Mediterranean island.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's "compassion" for François Hollande


France's former first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy was on US telly earlier this week.

No, it wasn't courtesy of her fleeting role in Woody Allen's 2011 movie "Midnight in Paris" - although that might well have been showing on one of the country's channels.

Rather the 45-year-old was a guest on NBC's "Today" show.


Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (screenshot from interview on NBC's "Today" show)

She was there to promote her latest album "Little French songs" in a brief but nonetheless predictable interview with the two hosts of the fourth hour segment of the show, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.


To say that Gifford and Kotb gushed their way through the cosy "chat" would be something of an exaggeration, but there again that part of the programme is inevitably lighter fodder for the viewers.

Nice and fluffy morning coffee time stuff.

And while Bruni-Sarkozy happily played along without giving away any state secrets - or at least not saying anything she hasn't already said - right at the end of the interview, she made what was perhaps, a perhaps surprising admission.

Reacting to Gifford's statement posed almost as a question that the current French president "François Hou..Houllande wasn't very popular at the moment" and that perhaps her husband (Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, just in case you've been on planet Zog for a while) "might have to make a return to politics", Bruni-Sarkozy kept her cool without falling into the trap and at the same time almost seemed come to Hollande's defence...well sort of.

"Nothing is easy in politics right now because economies are so difficult all over the world. So it's a hard duty job," she said.

"I always feel very compassionate to everyone who does it because it's a hard job," added Bruni-Sarkozy.

Ah well.

At least someone out there recognises what a sterling job Hollande is doing under the most arduous of circumstances.

Er...that is what she was saying, wasn't it?

Anyway. Here's the interview in all its full four-minute glory.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Desperately seeking Viviane - the Tibetan brown bear

Even if the weather is not quite playing ball at the moment here in France, you can tell it's summer.

How come?

Well those silly stories start surfacing in the mainstream media, taking up more than their fair share of time and space, and bringing perhaps relief and a smile to an otherwise gloomy day.

The most recent one is the tale of Viviane, a Tibetan brown bear, who is one the loose.

Normally the 32-year-old whiles away her days at the Sigean African reserve, a 300 hectare wildlife park not far from the city of Narbonne in southern France.

No, don't ask what a Tibetan bear is doing at an "African" reserve alongside lions, giraffes, rhinos and the like.

Nobody's quite sure how Vivian managed to escape, but at the weekend escape she did, perhaps deciding that she was tired of the reserve owners' apparent lack of geographical knowledge and who knows, set on investigating the whole wide world that lay beyond her enclosure.

Ever since she has been playing a game of hide and seek, keeping local authorities busy with police, firefighters and vets armed with tranquilisers taking part in the search.



A Tibetan brown bear (screenshot BFMTV report)

While the fruit and veggie eating plantigrade apparently doesn't present an immediate danger, police have warned the public not to approach her.

"If someone sees her, they shouldn't panic because this type or bear is rather timid and not at all aggressive," the directeur de cabinet du Préfet de l'Aude, Nicolas Martrenchard, told reporters.

"But there are some things worth avoiding," he added.

"People shouldn't get too close to her, try to feed or trap her and at the same time they would be advised to avoid eye contact or startling her by running away."

Wise words indeed because measuring 1,60m and weighing in at 130 kg plantigrade, Viviane, as timorous as she might be, is probably not an animal you would wish to encounter or upset.

On Monday she was spotted a couple of times and is now believed to be on the nearby l'ile Sainte Lucie - no not the Caribbean island but another reserve in the area surrounded by swamp land.

But that doesn't seem to be making the job of capturing her any easier.

Not only is the search area a vast one, according to Martrenchard, it's also not easy to access...unless you're a bear who also happens to be good at hiding.


L'ourse Viviane aperçue dans l'Aude - 25/06 par BFMTV

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The perks of working for EDF or "how heating a swimming pool is cheaper than boiling an egg"

"The real public service scandals" was a recent 40-page pullout in the weekly magazine Marianne, in which some light was shed on a number of issues usually under-reported (or largely ignored) by the mainstream media in France.

Schools, hospitals, the police, La Poste, SNCF and others were treated to a pretty thorough analysis, as was one of the nation's "international stars", the utility giant Électricité de France.

It makes fascinating reading.

Electricity prices for households in France are among the lowest in the European Union, but that could well change over the coming few years with a cumulative hike of around 30 per cent forecast by 2017.

Great!

While the rest of France will have to live with the increase, employees - past and present - of EDF, essentially a "public" company, will retain some level of protection.

Yes EDF is still a "public" company.

Although it pretty much operates to all intents and purposes as what might be perceived a "private" company or "limited liability corporation", the state still retains almost 85 per cent ownership.

Anyway, that's rather an aside.

Or is it?

Because wielding so much potential political influence, surely successive governments (and not just the current one) should at least have tried to put an end to a practice which no longer seems to be warranted but also seems downright illogical and not to say unreasonable: the perks enjoyed by the company and its employees.

Since 1946 the company's 300,000 current and retired employees have benefitted from privileges that might have been equitable when introduced but surely now lack credibility.

There is for example the 90 per cent reduction in the amount they pay for each kilowatt-hour of electricity.

Put another way, as it was in a report from the Cour des comptes or Court of auditors in February 2013, EDF employees pay a price per kilowatt-hour that's 16 times less than the average cost to the public.

Confusing figures perhaps but they all add up.

And there's more.

EDF employees don't just pay lower prices for electricity for their main residences.

Oh no.

If they're lucky enough to own a holiday home, the same benefits apply. And even apparently when they rent a house for a couple of weeks while on vacation.

That annual €74 subcription charge? Waived.

In the end, says Marianne, "at such prices, heating a swimming pool (for EDF employees of course) works out less expensive than boiling an egg (would do for everyone else).

But for justification as to why such advantages have remained at current levels since 1951 for electricity and 1962 for gas (yes, for historical reasons employees at GDF-Suez are also treated as a special case) union bigwig at Confédération française démocratique du travail (French Democratic Confederation of Labour, CFDT) Dominique Bousquebaud,  has the following explanation.

Try not to choke as you read.

"The system compensates for the fact that the salaries in the public sector are lower than those in the private and it helps attract better qualified workers," he says.

"It's a way today to compensate for the lack of profit-sharing that can be found at a high level in all major private companies."

Except, once again as Marianne points out, the Cour des comptes says that in fact salaries at EDF are slightly higher than in the equivalent private sector.

There again what does the country's body for auditing public institutions know?

If you want to read more about the tax breaks, the money lost to social security and how successive government have done little or nothing to alter the privileged status of EDF and its employees, try getting your mitts on the May 11-17 copy of Marianne.

Happy reading.

Now does anyone know of an opening at EDF?


Monday, 24 June 2013

Same-sex marriage legal in France unless...your partner is the "wrong" nationality.

So you're French and either gay or lesbian, and you want to marry your partner.

Well, as you probably know, given all the media coverage there was both domestically and internationally, now you can - in France at least.

Since May 18, just a day after the "wise men" of the Conseil Constitutionnel (Consitutional Council) approved the bill that had made its way through both the National Assembly and the Senate, and the president, François Hollande, had formerly declared it law, France became the 14th country to recognise same-sex marriage.

Less than a fortnight later Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau exchanged vows and rings in front of the  mayor, of Montpellier Hélène Mandroux, and a global audience to become the first same-sex couple to marry officially in France.

Progress indeed.

Montpellier's mayor Hélène Mandroux with Vincent Autin (right) and Bruno Boileau (screenshot AFPTV)


Except the so-called "Mariage pour tous" isn't quite what it's cracked up to be.

Ah yes. You knew there had to be an anomaly didn't you.?

Because if you're French and your partner and prospective spouse happens to come from one of any 11 countries then it's tough, because you won't be able to marry them in France.

A circular from the ministry of justice and signed by the minister who so energetically and eloquently guided the same-sex marriage legislation through parliament, Christine Taubira, says as much.

And the French website StreetPress managed to get its hands on the document and publish it in its entirety (available to download as a pdf file).

The countries concerned - in no particular order other than the one given in the circular - are Poland, Morocco, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Slovenia, Cambodia, Laos, Tunisia and Algeria.

Yes a heap of countries with which France has historically had (and continues to have) very close links and a couple (Poland and Slovenia) who are fellow members of the European Union.

None of that matters though because, as far as the ministry of justice is concerned, when couples of the same sex wish to marry and "one of the spouses is a national of one of these countries, the state registrar shall not solemnise the marriage."

On Rue89, another French website, 25-year-old "Lise" (that's the name she chose to use in the interview) who currently lives in Berlin with her partner "Agnieszka" explains how she discovered the couple wouldn't be able to marry in France in spite of the new law because she had made 'the mistake of falling in love with a Polish woman."

It's all apparently to do with individual bilateral agreements between France and each of the 11 countries on the application of the Marriage Act and, for the ministry of justice, it's now up to the foreign ministry to find a solution and "revise the agreements" as necessary.

Nothing like passing the buck.

Hallelujah.

After heated parliamentary and media debate and sometimes violent street protests which only served to fuel the decidedly homophobic views of a very verbal minority, the government still couldn't get the legislation right.

It drafted and passed a bill which, in its detail, could never truly completely deliver on what it had promised - and that's "Mariage pour tous".

François Hollande's Spanish-speaking "double"

Do not adjust your screens.

What you see in the first picture below and the video at the end is not a younger François Hollande off to a fancy dress party in a priest's outfit.

Rather, it's the real thing - a man of the cloth that is and not the French president.

Javier Alonso Sandoica (screenshot 13 TV)

A few years younger and more than several few kilos lighter by the looks of things, Javier Alonso Sandoica is blessed with mid-length flowing locks (all their natural colour, it should be added) and a television presence the French president would probably envy.

He presents a weekly slot on Spain's 13 TV in which he interviews a guest for just under 10 minutes, asks pertinent questions and seems fully at ease in front of the camera.

It was a screenshot of one of those programmes that was picked up by and Internaut, AminK, who noticed the resemblance between the two and posted on to his Twitter account with a short (well it was Twitter after all) "Someone has brought to my attention that President Hollande has a lookalike on Spanish TV. It makes me laugh a lot."


AminK's original Tweet (screenshot)

Others too seemed to be amused as the photo set the (French) Twittersphere alight with retweets.

Anyway, what do you think? Here are the two men side by side. Javier Alonso Sandoica is the one on the left just in case you were wondering.




And come to think of it, if it's supposed to be a "younger" François Hollande, wouldn't that perhaps make Father Javier more of a dead ringer for the French president's oldest son Thomas.

Thomas Hollande (screenshot from video taken at François Hollande rally in Dijon, March 2012)
Or does he (Thomas) have too much of the Ségolène Royal about him?

While we're in the realms of pure fancy, does anyone know of a suitable Seggers look-alike or Valérie Trierweiler doppelgänger?


Friday, 21 June 2013

France's first automatic dog washing machine

Fed up of the struggle involved in washing your pooch when it returns muddy and smelly from a walk in the forest?

Tired of having to clean the bathroom after you've perhaps wrestled with an unwilling dog intent on escaping as you, shampoo in one hand, shower head in the other, succeed only in flooding the place?

Or simply no longer willing to make regular and sometimes costly trips to a specialist groomer to have your faithful four-legged friend washed and blow-dried?

Help is finally at hand in the shape of Shower Dog Corner - a washing machine for man's best friend - now available in France.

Shower Dog Corner (screenshot TV Sud report)

Actually it has been up and running since March, but it was only this past week that the cameras of the local station TV Sud made their way to Montpellier to see how it works.

All right the Japanese have been doing it to their hounds - and cats come to that -  for some time, and pet owners in other countries have also been getting in on the act.

But it's apparently a first in France, a salon in Montpellier which offers a half-hour session in, what to all intents and purposes is, a dog washing machine.

The creator of Shower Dog Corner, Eduardo Segura, is Spanish and it was while watching a television report on its success in Spain that Mauro Balbis hit on the idea of introducing it on to the French market.

"I saw a report on "30 millions d'amis" and I got in touch with Eduardo," Balbis told TV Sud.

"When I went to see him and saw how the machine worked and how simple it was, I was won over."

So much so that he ordered one and set up shop.


Mauro Balbis (screenshot TV Sud report)

The whole process takes less than half an hour. You simply put your dog in the machine, close the door (of course) choose the programme and pay your money before sitting back to watch Fido spin.

No, of course that's not what happens - not the rotating part anyway.

Rather the dog is automatically sprayed with water and shampoo for just four minutes and then blow-dried for the remaining time.

Just in case you're worried, the machine is both SPA and veterinary school-approved, uses less water than would be required during a session at a conventional parlour and doesn't get rid or the protective grease contained in the fur.

It's also best for big dogs and "those of a nervous disposition" who might be refused entry to a more conventional parlour.

If, for some reason, Fido doesn't look too happy or begins to panic, you can always open the door and let the poor thing out.

Right Mrs Kipling, in the car. We're off to Montpellier.

Mrs Kipling?


Mrs Kipling


Insolite : Lavomatique pour chien à Montpellier par TVSud

Thursday, 20 June 2013

François Hollande as French telly's new "Reality show star" - as seen by Les Guignols

Those behind Les Guignols de l'info, a long-running satirical show in France featuring latex puppets, were on fine form this past Monday.

They opened their regular evening slot with a short sketch dedicated to François Hollande's "successful" live appearance the previous evening on M6's fortnightly economics magazine "Capital".

Perhaps you remember a recent post here in which the viewing figures for "Capital", with Hollande as guest, compared unfavourably to those of an interview with the Algerian-born former prostitute Zahia Dehar shown on in the evening on TF1's weekly show "Sept à huit".

Click here to refresh your memory.

There's little doubt that as a PR exercise, Hollande failed miserably to attract the hoped-for five million plus audience.

Anyway Les Guignols, in their own style, had a few cracking suggestions as to how Hollande might boost his popularity...by appearing in some of M6's many reality shows which seem to pull in the punters easily enough.


(screenshot Les Guignols "Maison à vendre")

First up "L'amour est dans le pré"  the equivalent in France of "Farmer wants a wife" and whose title in French ("Love is in the meadow")  neatly sidesteps the fact that female farmers also exist and next season could see a gay farmer cast for the first time.

Next up was "Top Chef", yet another French version of an imported "concept" with the production company and TV executives opting to keep the original "English" title.

And finally "Maison à vendre" ("Sell this house") hosted by the immensely irritating and deliberately buffoon-like real-life estate agent turned TV presenter Stéphane Plaza.

The part to watch (unless you want to see the whole show) is just the first one minute and 15 seconds during which Hollande is mistaken on each occasion for a pig.

You draw your own conclusion as to what Les Guignols were trying to say.

Enjoy.

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo




Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Will French TV campaign to stop parents smacking children lead to a ban? Fat chance

Another campaign in the form of a 30-second spot on TV and Internet, will be launched this week in France by the Fondation de l'enfance (Foundation for childhood) designed to show why it's not all right to smack a child.

According to the Fondation, in three out of every four French families, parents resort at some point to smacking or slapping their children.

We're talking about under-fives here!

"Any abuse of children can affect their physical and psychological health," says the co-ordinator of the campaign Dr Gilles Lazimi on the organisation's official website.

He wants legislation introduced to bring France into line with most other European countries

The video, is designed to illustrate that this form of "education" is not only counterproductive but also dangerous.

It's also supposed to shock parents.

(screenshot from Fondation de l'enfance video)

 Here we go again. A campaign meant to raise awareness of an issue but one which will probably be met at best with disinterested indifference.

The evidence that it'll have little or no impact is overwhelming.

23 European countries have already passed legislation making corporal punishment, of which smacking is a part, a punishable offence.

Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine,

"Status of corporal punishment: total abolition has been achieved – corporal punishment is prohibited in the home, schools, penal systems and alternative care settings"

But France looks as though it's in no hurry to do likewise.

A bill was presented to the National Assembly by the former parliamentarian and paediatrician  Edwige Antier in 2010.

Nothing happened.

Just over a year ago TF1 ran a report on the "Bon usage de la fessée" in which the case of one mother was used to explain how and why so many parents think it's all right to smack their children...when it's done "properly".

And even though the report also focused on a workshop to encourage alternative sets of parenting skills, the inclusion of a doctor saying it was "all right on occasions to smack a child" simply made the three-and-a-half minute piece an apology for an accepted practice.


(screenshot from Fondation de l'enfance video)


On Monday, France 2 featured the launch of the Fondation's campaign towards the end of its prime time news (here's the link - after the commercial fast forward to 31.37)

The least can be said is that just over one year down the line, attitudes towards smacking seem to be pretty much the same and the format for covering the issue is exactly that: a format.

First up one mother "explaining" that a "gentle" smack was sometimes both appropriate and necessary for her children "to learn".

"I smack him, not in a way which is intended to hurt but to demonstrate to him that he has passed a boundary I've already defined with him," said 28-yea-old teacher Claire Boudaoud.

"And after the smack we talk about it: why I had to do it and put it into context."

Another teacher (France 2 obviously had a stock of them lined up) Chahra Joubrel was also interviewed to put forward the other point of view.

She had smacked her children in the past but now thinks it's the wrong method of disciplining a child.

"It reflects domination by the adult over the child and is certainly not in the child's best interests," she said.

And thrown in for good measure was "the expert" - this time around in the form of psychoanalyst Claude Halmos whose contribution turned what should otherwise have been an objective report into one which became the same inevitable apology for a common practice throughout the country and down the generations.

"We must not confuse systematic beating of a child with the occasional smack given by a parent who loves and respects their child but at a certain moment has no other option. That sort of example is not one of mistreating a child" she said.

Great. So now the parents who are smacking the children are the victims - or what?

And that's an essential part of the problem.

Health professionals in France, according to a poll carried out in 2010,  are overwhelmingly opposed to any sort of legislation banning smacking.

The prevailing belief it seems among most French - and even those foreigners who've chosen to live here - is that the occasional smack under the right circumstances is an effective and appropriate method of education and disciplining a child.

Just take a look at the responses to a similar post last year on the subject on a forum for English-speakers living in France.

France might "need a total ban on parents smacking kids" according to Lazimi,

But convincing lawmakers might be more than the proverbial uphill struggle.

Let's hope the video helps.


Monday, 17 June 2013

François Hollande and Zahia, the former "courtesan"

Don't worry.

Before you get your hopes up too high, this is not a piece disclosing a scandal involving the French president François Hollande and the Algerian-born former prostitute Zahia Dehar.

There's no "liaison" - illicit or otherwise - between the two other than the fact that both appeared on French television on Sunday evening.

Hollande was invited by host Thomas Sotto onto M6's fortnightly economics magazine "Capital".


François Hollande (screenshot "Capital" M6)

And Zahia (first name only as that's the one by which she is best known) had a 13-minute one-on-one interview with Thierry Demaizière on TF1's much lighter weekly show "Sept à huit".

Different time slots admittedly for the two programmes and very different content and contrasting fortunes in terms of viewing figures.

Hollande was keeping a presidential campaign promise he made in the run-up to the May 2012 elections when he first appeared on "Capital" and promised Sotto to return if elected.

There was plenty to talk about since the two men had last appeared together on the programme and Hollande was quizzed on a number of issues including, among other things (Le Figaro has helpfully provided a transcript of the "best of" moments complete with videos if you're so inclined), pensions, unemployment, public spending cuts, the future of Stéphane Richard at the head of Orange and, as the news broke, his reaction to the Socialist party being knocked out in the first round of the by-election to find a successor to the disgraced former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac.

Meaty political and economic stuff for sure and, although important in the grand scheme of things, hardly gripping viewing.



Meanwhile a few hours earlier over on TF1, the much more appealing subject of sex had reared its head as Demaizière questioned the woman, who four years ago at the age of 17,  had been at the centre the underage prostitution scandal with French football internationals Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema.


Zahia (screenshot from TF1 "Sept à huit" interview)

Nice timing as the case will be heard in Paris's criminal court on Tuesday in what The Guardian calls, "A tale of footballers, sex and the Paris catwalk."

It was, in the words of "Sept à huit" presenter Harry Roselmack who introduced the report, "a revealing and sometimes touching portrait" in which the now 21-year-old proved herself to be more than just a "living doll with voluptuous curves."

Zahia was now "all grown up" and able to talk frankly and articulately (???) about her childhood in Algeria, her time spent as an underage "courtesan" (a term she preferred to that of "call girl") and how she had managed to rebuild her life after "that" scandal to become the model and businesswoman she is today.



Yes it was rivetting stuff, slickly put together and so much more interesting than watching several hours of bumbling Hollande trying to explain his way out of the proverbial paper bag.

And the viewing figures pretty much told the whole story of what really grabs people's attention.

Just over 2.8 million tuned in to watch their president live on TV, while 3.2 million were in front of their screens to see and hear and shed a tear with the comeback story of a modern-day Cinderella.

Here's a thought. Perhaps Zahia's communications people could help Hollande's communications people boost his popularity ratings.



Thursday, 13 June 2013

French president François Hollande confuses Japan with China

You know from time-to-time how you hear a story about a singer who greets fans at the beginning of a concert with, for example, a massive "Good evening Clermont-Ferrand" when the gig is taking place almost 150 kilometres away in the city of Saint Etienne.

That happened to one of France's "favourite" (well at least most successful over the decades) singers, Johnny Hallyday, in December last year.

It's understandable perhaps, given the punishing schedule of a tour and musicians don't necessarily have a huge entourage of speechwriters and advisors keeping tabs on what they're saying.

Not so for political leaders.

They rarely travel without an army of flunkies on hand.

François Hollande speaking at a press conference in Japan (screenshot from AFP report)

And there's really no excuse when they get things ever-so wrong and that must be especially true when they're French.

After all the country is famous and proud for its tradition of diplomacy, isn't it?

"French is the language of..." and all that.

So François Hollande's gaffe while on an official visit to Japan last week surely counts as one that'll ensure the French president is top of the class for a while yet when it comes to diplomatic blunders.

Hollande was speaking at a press conference in Tokyo and, while referring to the Algerian hostage crisis in January in which 10 Japanese died said...well take a listen for yourself.




Yes, you heard correctly. Hollande said "Chinese" rather than "Japanese" - and didn't even bother rectifying his mistake.

What a chump!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Film poster featuring two men kissing "too upsetting" for some

Shocking isn't it.

A poster showing two men kissing!

And they're not even "real men".

Rather they're two figures designed by illustrator Tom de Pékin to promote the film "L’inconnu du lac" ("Stranger by the lake") which won Alain Guiraudie the prize of Best Director in the category Un Certain Regard at the Cannes film festival in May.

screenshot of poster

The film, which tells the story (you can read a review in English by Nicolas Bell here) of a "torrid summer affair" between two men at a cruising spot for gay men next to a lake, goes on general release on June 12 and it appears the posters are too much for two town halls close to the French capital.

Authorities in Versailles and Saint-Cloud have both asked for them to be withdrawn and the company owning the billboards on which they had appeared, JCDecaux, has duly taken them down.

Well that's how it's being reported although nobody is talking about censorship - apart from the minister of culture, Aurélie Filippetti -  attributing it rather to not wanting to offend sensibilities.

You see Versailles and Saint-Cloud could be caricatured (kindly of course) as the heartland of a certain type of bourgeois Catholicism in France: where the girls wear Alice Bands and the boys are Scouts.

They're also the kind of places where you might expect to see plenty of clones of France's most gay-friendly parliamentarian Christine Boutin.

Apparently "concerned" residents have been calling, emailing and even - horror upon horrors - turning up at the town hall in Saint-Cloud to express their "distress".

Over in Versailles, where the authorities deny there was a formal request to take down the posters, the director of communications admitted that they could "shock those who found themselves helpless in the face of posters that address sexuality in the street".

All right, fess-up time. It's probably not just the kiss (although that's upsetting and unnatural in itself of course) which has caused a mini brouhaha.

Instead it's the - and you might have to take a good ol' squint at the image to spot this - the  representation of two men in the background apparently engaged in (cough, cough) oral sex.


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